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ER1: Check the Facts

Does the emotion fit the facts?

Emotions can trigger thoughts and interpretations about events and they can distort our perception, which in turn can increase the intensity of the emotion. It is so easy to be judgmental, critical, or to make distorted interpretations about an incident when we are in emotional mind. Emotions can hijack our thinking and we don't even realize it. Beliefs about a situation that are faulty or extreme are often tied into emotional escalation and even problems that don't exist.

Black and white, or extreme thinking: "She never finishes anything," as opposed to "She has one class left to get her degree."

Generalizations: "He is always yelling at me and I can't stand it," versus "He has been calmer lately, but last night he raised his voice and insulted me so I walked out saying that I had to leave the room when he speaks to me like that."

Faulty Beliefs: "Kids have to respect their parents," versus "Some kids will say what they want impulsively and without any filter."

Believing our thoughts to be true can be a recipe for disaster. No one has the absolute truth and believing that can lead to conflict. There is always more than one way to see a situation and more than one way to solve a problem. If we believe something to be a fact when it is not, learning the correct facts can change our emotions. Learning the correct facts can also help us to problem solve more effectively (and potentially change the facts.) Attached is a PDF document with some very concrete considerations to determine if your emotions really fit the facts:

Examples of Emotions that Fit the Facts
Download PDF • 42KB

How do we check the facts?

We have to step back and describe the facts, just the fact, as observed through the senses. Describing precisely what we see, hear, and feel without judgment or generalizations or extreme black and white thinking. Such thinking may even be the trigger for an emotional reaction. We need to separate interpretations and opinions from observable facts.

Assumptions, especially assumptions about the future can also get confused with facts. Assuming that someone will never change, that someone will attack me or reject me, or that I will not attain what I want, are examples of assumptions that many family members make. Thinking that these are facts sustains anxiety, anger, or sadness. Connecting with our wise mind may help us to realize that they are not facts, but beliefs about the unknown future. We may need to think of as many other outcomes as possible. Just listing all other possible outcomes may reduce the level of threat that the future holds.

So if you find yourself in emotional mind, step back to see reality as it is. Separate facts from judgments, opinions, beliefs, or assumptions. Check the facts and describe them precisely. See if the emotion really fits the facts. If it still seems justified, consider if there are any threatening assumptions and think of other possible outcomes. Do the emotions fit the facts? Try this skill, especially when you suspect you might be judgmental, opinionated, or fiercely clinging to your self-righteous beliefs! Let me know how it goes.

Below is a page to download that will guide you through the practice. Fill it out and let me know how it went! Questions? Send me a question for the next Q&A!

Check the facts
Download DOCX • 27KB

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